Automotive Marketing Today Is All About Finding Opportunity in the Known Unknowns

The last two years have brought a flood of unknowns to the auto industry. Whether it was converting plants, adapting supply chains, or virtual launching vehicles, this industry continued to do what it does best: adapt, innovate, and thrive.

We all would love nothing more than for things to work out. But the truth is, the unknowns remain. If 2020 and 2021 threw new unknowns at us, 2022 turns out to be the year of known unknowns. There are three unknowns, each offering opportunities marketers in the auto industry and beyond can capitalize on.

1. Inventory Restrictions

The first known unknown concerns the shortage of semiconductors. While the timing of shortages is difficult to predict, one aspect of this challenge is well known: continued demand.

Shoppers still want to shop on their original schedule and are now expanding their consideration rates. As a matter of fact, 25% would consider switching brands with a high or very high probability. This provides marketers with an opportunity to attract new people to their brands.

In fact, branding efforts can also boost near-term sales for automakers’ vehicles. In Meta’s analysis of 34 advertisers across 10 industries, the results were consistent: 94% of campaigns that run branded ads see an increase in brand awareness and conversions.

Why? On mobile, consumer attention doesn’t differentiate between brand and direct response. It’s all a brand experience and it’s all about performance because your finger is there to act.

And there’s a new playground of tools in this space — from augmented reality to Facebook and Instagram reels to creator content — that enable today’s leading automakers to showcase their creativity while building brands and new customers to win. When Volvo wanted to raise awareness of its first all-electric SUV model, the XC40 Recharge. Leveraging augmented reality ads, the automaker saw a 6.7% increase in awareness, in addition to significant incremental conversions on its website, proving the power of innovative brand campaigns on direct mail response.

2. Digital Commerce

Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated the shift to digital retail – from grocery delivery to Christmas shopping to the way we buy vehicles. In a 2020 study commissioned by Meta of 1,154 car buyers aged 18+, 70% of new car prospects surveyed prefer to do most of the research and exploration before even visiting a dealership. But will this trend continue as shops reopen? Yes, because consumer expectations for convenience are here to stay.

The use of digital tools increases customer satisfaction. According to Cox Automotive, in 2021 nearly three-quarters of franchise car dealerships surveyed said they have seen an increase in the use of digital retail tools since Covid-19. And with that, the percentage of shoppers who were “very satisfied” with the overall shopping experience increased dramatically over the same period — a full 12 percentage points — after little movement over the last four years of reporting.

Messaging or conversational commerce is another source of convenience for today’s automobile shoppers. Consumers have become so accustomed to the instant exchange of SMS that messaging has become their preferred way of interacting with friends and businesses alike. Based on a 2020 study commissioned by Meta of 2,500 people aged 18-24, nearly 70% of consumers surveyed said being able to interact with businesses through messaging apps helps build a relationship build them up.

Today’s leading automakers see this as an opportunity to focus on starting conversations, not just campaigns. Renault saw a 2.6x increase in total direct communication with its customers after implementing WhatsApp as a customer service channel to increase engagement.

3. Ad Measurement Evolution

The advertising ecosystem is undergoing massive change. Between regulatory and platform changes, advertisers lose key consumer insights that guided their investments, especially for direct response. But in this unknown lies opportunity.

The measurement is evolving to put privacy first. Advertisers are now Measuring causality between ad exposure and business outcomes through secure server-to-server integration that controls how data is shared while respecting customers’ privacy choices.

Another important tool is Media Mix Modeling (MMM). Automotive marketers already rely on MMM, but today MMM is enjoying a renaissance towards a world without cookies. Leading automakers recognize that the future is being modeled, with high-fidelity data leading the way.

Just as the automotive industry has adapted so many times before, today’s known unknowns offer new opportunities for your marketing know-how. New customers, a new level of convenience and the next era of measurement technology are on our doorstep. For more inspiration see

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